Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboats launch to two people stranded by tide

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI volunteer crew launched both Ilfracombe lifeboats at 6.45 p.m. on Thursday 20 August after two walkers were cut off by the tide near Lynmouth.

Shannon class lifeboat at sea in large swells

RNLI/Nikki Bradshaw

Ilfracombe lifeboat launches to two people cut off by tide

The crew were at the lifeboat station on only their second exercise since lockdown when the pagers went off. Both lifeboats, the Shannon class all-weather lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation and the D Class inshore lifeboat the Deborah Brown II. were quickly launched. The lifeboats made their way at full speed assisted by the tide to reach Lynmouth just 20 minutes later. Arriving on scene the conditions were blustery with gusts of force 6-7 (25-35 mph) and 2 metre swells along the shoreline.

The alarm was raised by the two walkers who called the emergency services using a mobile phone after they were cut off by the rising tide as they were walking the coast path and beaches near Lynmouth.

The initial report was that the walkers were trapped at the foot of the cliffs near Sillery Sands and the crew were instructed by the Coastguard to carry out a shoreline search between Lynmouth and Rodney’s Cottage about a quarter of a mile past Foreland Point, as there were concerns that the people could have been washed off the beach and around the Point. The lifeboats searched along the shoreline for an hour and a half alongside the Lynmouth and Ilfracombe Coastguard Search and Rescue teams and St Athan Coastguard helicopter, but there was no sign of the people. The lifeboats were then stood down and began to make their way back to Ilfracombe Harbour.

As the crew approached High Veer Point near Heddon’s Mouth, the lifeboats were tasked again by the Coastguard, along with the Minehead RNLI lifeboat, to return to the search as the trapped people had managed to make contact again and confirm that they were further east around Foreland Point. As the lifeboats rounded Foreland Point it was becoming dark and this time the crew saw a small light in the distance. The lifeboats rapidly made their way half a mile to the east, to the source of the light. There they found the two walkers, who had managed to climb up the cliff, onto on a ledge around 20 metres above the water and were using the torch on their mobile phone to signal to them. Shortly after the walkers were located the Minehead Atlantic 85 lifeboat also arrived on scene but was stood down and returned to the station.

The inshore D Class lifeboat attempted to get to the shore, but conditions were too dangerous with 2 metre breaking waves onto rocks at the shoreline. The RNLI Volunteer Coxswain, Andrew Bengey, decided that it would not be possible for the lifeboats to reach the stranded people and requested the Coastguard helicopter to assist. The crews remained close to shore with their spotlights to reassure the people whilst waiting for the helicopter. Once the helicopter arrived a winchman was lowered in challenging conditions with strong winds, and the two walkers were taken safely into the care of the Coastguard. The lifeboats then returned to the station arriving at Ilfracombe harbour at 11 p.m. where they were recovered and made ready for the next service.

RNLI Volunteer Andrew Bengey says: ‘this weekend will be one of the highest spring tides of the year and high tide today was 9.7 metres. The tide can come in very quickly and catch people out. Thankfully today no one was hurt, however we would urge people to check the tide timetables before walking along the shoreline. We would also recommend that people carry of means of calling for help. It was fortunate that the people stranded today were able to raise the alarm and notify the Coastguard of their location.”

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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